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How Recreation OEMs Can Increase Organic Traffic from Unbranded Search Terms

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In our last post on SEO, we outlined the most important factors that influence organic search engine results page (SERP) rankings. In this post we’ll look at a strategy that builds on some of these ranking factors, including building SEO for unbranded search terms in the Marine, RV and Powersports industries.

Branded terms are search terms that include your brand’s name, like Brand A Boats or Brand A Dealer. Unbranded search terms are terms that you can win at, but do not have your brand name in the term, for example, Open Bow Boats, or Boats with Sound System. We are going to discuss the difference between winning at each of these types of search terms for SEO so that you have a well-rounded and effective SEO strategy for your website.

Online Traffic from Brand Searches

Most organic search traffic for boat, RV, and powersports manufacturers is generated from brand queries – users typing your brand and model names into their favorite search engine. The difference in volume between brand and unbranded queries can vary widely from OEM to OEM, depending on several factors:

  1. Brand awareness– OEMs with high brand awareness will typically get a much higher percentage of their traffic from brand queries.
  2. Brand name uniqueness– OEMs that have a unique brand name will also get a much higher percentage of traffic from brand queries. This is because they aren’t competing for search rank against other brands, organizations, or topics that share the same keyword(s).
  3. Search Engine Marketing (SEM) bid strategies – Some OEMs will only bid on unbranded keywords, while others will bid on both brand and unbranded keywords. Your SEM strategy and media spending can have an enormous impact on organic search traffic, from both branded and unbranded queries.
  4. High rank for unbranded keywords – OEMs with webpages that consistently rank high in organic search results for the most popular unbranded keywords/phrases will typically get a higher percentage of traffic from those queries.

The key takeaway is to ensure you rank in the first or second position for searches that include your brand name(s). Ideally, OEMs should control 2 to 3 search results for your brand name(s) on the first page of the major search engines. If you don’t, you have some work to do, check out our beginner’s SEO guide to get some easy tips and tricks to improve your brand’s SEO strategy.

Online Traffic from Unbranded Searches

Although unbranded queries don’t generate as much traffic as brand queries, they’re important because they can still generate a significant amount of traffic, particularly from customers who are brand undecided/unaware.

The most popular unbranded queries are based on product type. The table below shows the number of U.S. search queries on Google for a sampling of product type keywords for marine, RV, and powersports. These product type keywords, and their variations, are what shoppers use most often when searching for a recreational product, especially when they are brand undecided or brand unaware. Also note the level of interest and traffic potential for brands that rank high in organic search results for these keywords.

Google Average Monthly Searches – U.S. 

The Big Miss

One of the basic functions of any search "algorithm" is to determine what a webpage is about, and if it provides value to the consumer. Search engines use many cues to determine if a page is relevant to the words and phrases users include in their queries, such as…

  • Domain name
  • Directory and Page name
  • Page Title
  • HTML Header Tags
  • Page text
  • Image names
  • Image Alt text
  • Anchor text (both internal and external)

Think about a consumer who uses the keyword “bowrider” in their search queries. All things being equal, a manufacturer who has a top-level webpage dedicated to their line of bowriders would have the upper hand on competitors who don’t have this specificity on their website. Unfortunately, many OEMs, particularly those that carry multiple product types, often fail to create webpages for each product type they carry, missing out on an opportunity to appear in unbranded searches.

Recently, AVALA reviewed 18 websites for popular marine manufacturers that carry multiple product types. Only two thirds had product type pages, and of those that did, only half used terms boat shoppers typically use in their search queries on the page. This is a huge opportunity for brands to increase their SEO ranking and bring in undecided buyers.

How does this happen? Most OEMs don’t consider SEO when they architect their websites and name/categorize their products. Here are the most common flaws that put OEMs at an SEO disadvantage when it comes to product type search queries:

  1. Dropdown menus without links to product type pagesThis user interface is ubiquitous on manufacturer websites, and puts users one click away from the model(s) they’re interested in. Although models are usually grouped by product type, that doesn’t help search engines or their users because there isn’t a product type page to land on. 
    1. Pro Tip: Keep in mind, dropdown menus can include both links to the individual model pages, and links to product type pages.
  2. OEMs that use brand names instead of consumer terms: Some OEMs will assign a unique brand or series name to a product type, which is fine, so long as your site also includes product type pages based on words that boat shoppers more commonly use on search engines.
  3. Poor use of on-page search elements: Too often product type pages don’t adhere to on-page SEO best practices, such as inclusion of important keywords in page names, page titles, et. al. When creating a product type page, make sure to check all the SEO boxes.
  4. Lack of interesting and useful content: Product type pages can be so much more than a showcase for your product line. Think of all ways you can address questions shoppers from search engines may have:
    1. What is this product type best used for?
    2. How does this product type compare with other product types you carry?
    3. Why should I choose your product type over other manufacturers?
    4. What awards have you won?
    5. What are recent customers saying about your product type?
    6. How is your design and manufacturing process better?

Google some of the product type keywords listed in the table above and note the manufacturers who get the highest SERP positions. In most cases, they’ll have the keyword in their page URL (and a product type page on their site).

Creating quality product type pages is one of the best ways for manufacturers to increase page rank and organic search traffic.

So Now What?

Now you know the difference between branded searches and unbranded searches, and that they are equally important. As a manufacturer in any industry, it is essential for you to utilize SEO to ensure consumers find your brand when using a search engine. Unbranded searches are an especially unique strategy in that you have the opportunity to corner the market on a specific, industry-related term. Also, if a consumer is utilizing an unbranded search for a product type you carry, this is your first and best opportunity to introduce them to your brand and persuade them to commit.

Don’t miss out! Lead potential customers to your website with well-executed SEO strategy and then when they arrive, give them every tool they need to help them make a decision to buy your product.